Impeachment of Zamfara Dep Gov Mahdi, ‘an embarrassment to democracy’ – Saraki

Barely hours after former Anambra State Governor, Dr Peter Obi had roundly condemned the Zamfara State House of Assembly for moving to impeach the state’s deputy governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki has called the action of the lawmakers ‘an embarrassment to democracy.’
Reacting to last Wednesday’s impeachment of Mahdi by the Zamfara House of Assembly, Saraki, also a former Governor of Kwara State, in a series of tweets via his verified Twitter handle (@bukolasaraki), Friday, berated the Assembly for the ‘abrupt impeachment of Mahdi Ali, without following due process,’ describing it as ‘truly disheartening.

According to Saraki, Mahdi was impeached for ‘because he refused to join the ruling party’ in the state.

The former Senate President of the 8th Session of the Nigerian National Assembly (2015 – 2019), cautioned the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) against setting dangerous ‘constitutional and political precedents’ through its alleged intimidation of individuals to join its party.

Saraki’s reaction follows a similar position taken by former Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 General Elections, peter Obi, who also in a series of tweets, Friday, carpeted Wednesday’s impeachment of Mahdi Aliyu Gusau by the state’s House of Assembly, describing the move as having ‘no basis in law but is predicated only on toxic politics.’

Saraki while reacting, urged ‘all leaders, in both the ruling APC, and my party, the PDP, must come out to condemn this impeachment as an embarrassment to our democracy.’

“After 21-years of our democracy, when all leaders should be following the Constitution, the abrupt impeachment of the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Barrister Mahdi Ali, without following due process — just because he refused to join the ruling party is truly disheartening.

“We cannot attempt to subvert the freedom of association of any individual — whether a sitting public office holder or a regular citizen. This freedom allows any individual to freely join or exit a political party when he deems fit.

“The ruling party should not and cannot attempt to brow-beat a public office holder to join their party or to bend to their political leanings, simply because they have the majority in the legislature.

“We must preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions, otherwise, we risk setting dangerous constitutional and political precedents that can spiral.

“All leaders, in both the ruling APC, and my party, the PDP, must come out to condemn this impeachment as an embarrassment to our democracy.

“This freedom allows any individual to freely join or exit a political party when he deems fit.

“We must all stand with Barr. Mahdi Ali, for his courage and tenacity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

“This young leader has shown that he is a person with true conviction. He stands as a beacon of hope for many young Nigerians!

“It is indeed an embarrassment to democracy and freedom of association which is a cardinal point of democracy.

“We all must rise and fight this problem,” Saraki’s tweets read.

It would be recalled that while also reacting, Friday afternoon, to the impeachment of Barrister Mahdi, who has since last year, refused to join the state Governor, Bello Matawalle, in defecting to the APC from the PDP, Dr Obi said the move by the Zamfara House of Assembly was ‘predicated only on toxic politics.’

Using his verified Twitter handle (@PeterObi), Obi, the former Anambra State governor recalled his personal experience with impeachment, said he can ‘relate to this desecration of our constitutional democracy.’

“The impeachment of Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as Dep. Gov. of Zamfara has no basis in law but is predicated only on toxic politics.

“As someone who was wrongfully impeached and became the first Nigerian public officer to come back from impeachment, I can relate to this desecration of our constitutional democracy and offer my unalloyed support to him,” the former Governor of Anambra State said.

Last Wednesday, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau was impeached by the State House of Assembly in a unanimous vote, House, after he had sworn to remain in the PDP despite the State Governor, Bello Matawalle defecting since last year, in a move that has rippled into a political conflict in the state.

During the plenary, 20 out 24 members of the APC-controlled House voted for the impeachment of the Deputy Governor after the report submitted by the judicial panel of investigation found him guilty of the allegations levelled against him.

The panel had Justice Halidu Tanko-Soba as Chairman, with Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN) , as Deputy Chairman and Abdul-Atadoga Ibrahim (SAN), Hussaini Zakariyau (SAN), Amina Tanimu-Marafa , Alhaji Sani Mande and Ahmad Buhari-Rabah , as members.

The report of the panel was read by the Speaker of the Assembly Nasiru Muazu Magarya and was adopted by members of the Assembly.

The panel presented its report to the speaker which was acted upon in removing Gusau from office.

Submitting the report, Okpeseyi said the panel had done its duty with utmost integrity and diligence and had compiled the report based on the evidences it gathered in the course of its duty.

According to him, the panel is not empowered by the Nigerian Constitution to speak about its report or make it available to any person.

Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the probe panel only produced two copies of the report and has visited the assembly complex to present the report to the speaker.

The panel, inaugurated by the Zamfara State Chief Judge, Kulu Aliyu, to investigate allegations against the deputy governor began its proceedings Monday afternoon in Gusau.

Meanwhile, Senator Muhammad Hassan Nasiha, representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, has been nominated as the state’s new State Deputy Governor.

At the resumed plenary, the speaker of the House, Nasiru Mua’zu, read a letter from the state Governor Bello Matawalle nominating Senator Muhammad as the deputy governor of Zamfara State.

Meanwhile, reacting to the development, Thursday, the PDP accused the Chief Judge (CJ) of Zamfara state, Justice Halidu Tanko-Soba, of conniving with the House of Assembly in removing the deputy governor, Mahdi Gusau, from office, Wednesday.

This is also the party threatened legal action over Wednesday’s removal of the Zamfara State Deputy Governor, Mahdi Gusau, by the House of Assembly.

National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, said the impeachment would be challenged in court.

Ologunagba also accused the Chief Judge of the state of conniving with the All Progressives Congress-led state government to impeach the Deputy Governor despite a subsisting court order.

“It is unconstitutional, it is an affront to the rule of law and democracy because there is a subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, a court of competent jurisdiction. It will not be allowed to stand.

“Even more disturbing is that the chief justice of the state, who purportedly set up the seven-man panel, ought to be the defender of the court and the rule of law. And in a case where there is a subsisting court order, the chief judge is a party to that action. And yet the chief judge was a party to the disobedience to a court order.

“We will take appropriate action to defend democracy and ensure that the rule of law stands. In the next few days, we will take action. We reject this purported impeachment,” the PDP spokesman said.

It would also be recalled that a Federal High Court, Abuja, had last July, restrained the Zamfara House of Assembly from impeaching the Deputy Governor of the state, Mahdi Gusau.

Justice Obiora Egwuatu gave the order while delivering a ruling in an ex-parte motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/650/2021 brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its Lawyer, Ogwu Onoja, SAN.

Egwuatu, who ordered the defendants to maintain status quo pending the heating and determination of the motion on notice, also stopped the house from impeaching its other members who are still in the PDP.

He directed the plaintiff to serve all the defendants in the suit before Friday and adjourned the matter until July 23 for hearing of the motion on notice.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, Speaker of Zamfara House of Assembly, Governor Matawalle and Chief Judge of Zamfara are 1st to 7th defendants respectively.

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